Payerne, Switzerland -- One hundred years after a plane first linked two Swiss cities, Bertrand Piccard's and André Borschberg's Solar Impulse HB-SIA made its first flights across Switzerland, powered solely by solar energy. The prototype, piloted by André Borschberg, achieved the first leg of the mission 22 Sept from Payerne to Geneva, before returning back to its base in Payerne.
The next day, the solar aircraft flew to Zurich and back. Throughout the flight, the public was able to follow the progress of Solar Impulse, flying at low altitude on a pre-announced route.
"Thanks to the plane's low speed, I was able to discover Switzerland from a completely new angle, fully taking in the beauty of our country," said André Borschberg, ceo and co-founder of Solar Impulse, from the cockpit of HB SIA in Zurich. "The Swiss solar flights represent a major step forward for our team, taking us away from our customary airspace. We have learned to work together with international airports, merging in with the heavy Swiss air traffic. Our next step will be an international flight, but that's for next year."
For Bertrand Piccard, president and initiator of Solar Impulse, this event is an occasion to present the Solar Impulse Foundation's educational projects. "Using the solar plane as a symbol, our goal is to promote the pioneering spirit in young people, making them aware of the importance of renewable energy, energy saving and new technologies (CleanTechs)."
Web-based online lectures will be held on a monthly basis with schools, and a competition will also be launched in partnership with Swisscom to reward school environmental projects "Climate Pioneers". An education kit is now downloadable from www.solarimpulse.com and 3D animated visit of the airplane is also available.
The next milestones for Solar Impulse, which uses polyurethane foam in its cockpit for an insulated and lightweight structure, are the international flights scheduled for next year, a trans-Atlantic flight in 2012, and circumnavigation of the world in 2013 on board the 2nd prototype, whose design phase will be starting this autumn.